Where to eat in Nan, Thailand?
Normally finding a place to eat dinner or relax with a coffee for a couple of hours is never hard to do. In nearly all of the places we have visited and explored on our travels through Thailand we have never been disappointed and always found a great little café or cute restaurant to fill our tummies or while away the leisurely days. Yet when we arrived in Nan, it was a different story.
Jmayel by the Nan River
We had built up an image of Nan in our heads of what we thought the town would be like, after hearing so much about it and knowing its rural North Eastern location we were excited to go there and check it out. Picturing cute river side wooden cafes and rustic restaurants by the water, we were rather disappointed when the time came for us to go in search of food after a mammoth drive from Chiang Rai, to be met by lots of closed facades and a few uninspiring establishments.
We never thought Nan was going to be a hot spot for Michelin stared restaurants and culinary expertise, yet even finding some basic food and somewhere we actually wanted to stop and have a meal was a challenge in itself.
The Hidden Sign for Runway Restaurant
Our first meal in Nan was dinner in The Runway Restaurant. As you may have guessed from the name, it is situated opposite the entrance to Nan Airport. We ended up in this place as it was on the way to our hotel so we had driven past it a few times already and it looked busy and popular. After going into town and not having much luck finding food we decided to head back towards ‘that place near the hotel we saw on the way in’ and it turned out to be a good call.
The menu was all written in Thai and they didn’t have an English version available, yet with our limited Thai language skills we managed to order some plates of Pad Thai with Pork. Unlike the food menu, the drinks menu above the counter was written in English and so we had iced coffees all round with our dinner.
The concealed entrance to Runway Restaurant
The food was good and the service was even better. The pad thai portions were large and satisfying and the staff kept coming round to top up our glasses with water and ice cubes.
The restaurant had a constant stream of Thai customers, we would definitely eat there again.
Khao Soi Noodle Shop
Khao Soi Restaurant in Nan
After a good buffet breakfast in our hotel, Nan Noble Guest House, we didn’t go in search of food again until 2pm,after spending the afternoon walking around a few of the towns temples.
We ended up in a Khao Soi Noodle Shop, again the menu on the wall was all written in Thai yet the banner on the front of the shop stated their specialty was Khao Soi.
We walked in and sat at the low wooden tables, our friend who was visiting from England was excited to try her first taste of this Northern Thai dish that we love.
Gillian & I enjoying our lunch
Khao Soi is a hot noodle soup made with coconut milk, normally with either chicken or pork meat, topped with crispy fried noodles. You are also given a side plate with picked cabbage, shallots, limes, coriander and chilli, which you can then add in to the soup to suit your own tastes.
Khao Soi (Chicken Noodle Soup)
The food was freshly cooked to order and as we were the only customers at the time, we didn’t have a long wait before our bellies were suitably full.
If you want a taste of traditional North Thailand food, in a local setting, then this is a great place. Cheap, plentiful and tasty.
Café Sood Gong Dee
Waiting for our beverages
We were driving along near the river when we saw a sign for Café Sood Gong Dee, after spending the last two days looking for a hidden rustic café, of which we had assumed Nan would be full of, this sign made us happy. We questioned whether we were about to get our perfect café experience in Nan, the town that had so far been rather disappointing.
There is a car park at the café, but it seems at first as if you are driving into someone’s garden. You can’t see the café from the entrance as it is set back behind the owner’s house.
Walking around the back we found a cute café set out around the garden. A covered area up some wooden steps made for the main café, with small seating areas dotted around the rest of the grassy garden.
The café offered the usual array of drinks, as well as a few desserty food options like honey toast and waffles.
The setting was nice and the large selection of alcoholic bottles adorning the shelves behind the counter lead me to believe that this place would turn into a bit of a locals hang out in the evenings with the presence of the fire pit edged with empty beer bottles, possibly from the night before.
I opted for a hot chocolate, which was presented nicely, however, it lacked a vital component of a hot chocolate, in that it was served luke warm and not hot at all. It was more a cup of warm milk than anything resembling a hot chocolate.
I would return to this café for the setting, it was quiet and near to the river, an OK place to sit for a while if you are stuck for things to do in Nan and want to pass some time.
Unfortunately it wasn’t exactly what we were looking for.
Cafe de Zeven
We saw a wooden rustic sign for this café hidden down a tight side road, however, like a lot of the establishments in Nan during the time of our visit, it was closed. This café looked to be what we were after as we stood staring through the fence at the wooden chairs and menu. Our access unfortunately denied.
Locked Up, Access Denied until next time 🙂
This café was under the same management as Nan Guesthouse, directly located next door.
We missed out this time, however next time we are passing though Nan we will certainly head here for a fresh smoothie or a coffee. It looked like a peaceful place to sit and relax, had it been open, it may have been the answer to our café prayers during our coffee search in Nan!
Baan Nan – hotel restaurant
Our last night in Nan we wanted to head to a proper restaurant, one where we didn’t have to sit on the street, or eat out of a small plastic bowl. Nan had not met our expectations on the food and café front and so we had just one last chance for it to prove itself. We had driven passed Baan Nan hotel earlier in the day and Jmayel suggested we go there for dinner, which we did. Parking up outside the nicely lit hotel, we walked in and were hit with a wave of cool A/C. The restaurant was nice with bright white walls and high ceilings, a couple of the tables already occupied with families having dinner.
*Image Courtesy of Baan Nan Hotel
Dinner was Chicken Satays, followed by dory fish and French fries, accompanied by fresh fruit juices.
It was pleasant and made a change to be sitting in a proper restaurant rather than a local style café.
They also had a selection of cakes and dessert and alcoholic drinks are available.
We would dine at the Baan Nan hotel again, although the actual hotel is not pet friendly and so we won’t be staying the night!
Overall, I think our experience of eating in Nan was tainted by the fact that we were visiting during a Buddhist holiday and turned up as lots of businesses had closed. Had we been in Nan during full swing, we may have had a different experience but we still managed to find some places to fill our bellies and fuel us through our stay.
If you know of a great place to eat in Nan town, please let us know! For now check out this google map we made of ‘Where to eat in Nan’. We added some places that we wanted to visit but were closed during our stay. Next time we will try them all 😉
Where To Eat In Nan Thailand
View Where to Eat in Nan, Thailand in a larger map
Pet Friendly Hotel in Nan:
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